At the weekend myself and The Tracks Of My Trains went to LILLE in The France, and it was TRES BON!
It all came about because the aforesaid Events In My Story fancied an ADVENTURE and had noted that Lille was a) somewhere neither of us had been before and b) thoroughly do-able. THUS we hopped on the Eurostar on Thursday night and ZOOMED off to FRANCE. The channel tunnel is flipping AMAZING, it was SO easy to get there, and the trains were the lovely OLD ones (which seemed SO MODERNE when they were first introduced) with lovely big seats and a proper BAR area. I also love the FACT that you stroll onto it with yr luggage and then just hop off at the other end without any hanging around. It's GRATE!
Once arrived EN FRANCE we went to our hotel, the Art Deco (it was nice) and then headed into Lille itself. We'd got a list of Veggie Restaurants off The Interweb so went to have a look at some, and ended up walking through WAZZEMES. This is the "student" district, which turned out to be a bit HACKNEY i.e. a bit stinky and full of BARS. We did FIND a bar which was supposed to be where The Vegans went, but it ALSO was not all that nice, so we upped and LEFT. This was a GRATE decision - as it usually is - as it led to us going back into the centre of town and having a drink in a bar called The Metropole, which was DELIGHTFUL. We would be going there again!
On Saturday we went to the Tourist Information Office to get ourselves a CITY PASS, which would allow us free travel AND a trip on that Holiday Essential, The Open Top Bus Tour. The lady in the office was LOVELY - she said it would take too much admin to get us our City Pass NOW and we might miss the bus, so she took us outside, had a word with the bus driver, and said we could sort it out later! We were amazed - we'd read in our guidebook that The Lillois are known for being FRIENDLY, but we didn't know they'd be so trusting too!
The bus tour was ACE (even though the roof was more see-through than open) and fulfilled its purpose of Giving Us Our Bearings (I ALWAYS recommend a bus tour, open top or otherwise, for getting the HANG of a new place, it WORKS), including showing us where an EXKI was. EXKI is sort of like Pret, but FOREIGN, so after getting our City Passes we went there and ate a TONNE of food and had some WINE. We then went to try and get into the Town Hall BELFRY, but it was closed, so went on to The Musee De Beaux Arts. This was PRETTY AMAZING - we followed a MAP around the galleries which showed us where the HIGHLIGHTS were, but were amazed to find it had a whole room FULL of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and all those lot which wasn't even mentioned! In the basement they had a whole FLOOR of antique RELIEF MAPS, which are scale models of entire areas that, apparently, were used for military planning. This BLEW MY MIND I must admit, as it was a whole THING that I never even knew existed. We finished off by looking at a bit of sculpture by Donatello. The gallery attendant talked to me in FRENCH about it at some length, with me smiling and nodding politely. At the end he paused and said "Did you understand any of that?" and I had to admit not, so he told me all over again. Apparently we were looking at the first ever example of PERSPECTIVE being used properly. COR!
After all THAT we needed some refreshment, so went to a bar... where nobody served us, so we walked out again. It was EXTREMELY liberating! Instead we strolled homewards and saw a VISION ahead as we came towards the Railway Station - a MARKS AND SPENCERS FOOD HALL!!!!! We fell upon it like WOLVES at... er... an M&S, and stocked up with GRUB which we took home for a PICNIC, before heading out again for BEER and CHIPS back at The Metropole. We know how to live!
Our final full day kicked off with a Walking Tour, which went all round the Old Town. It is a) LOVELY b) not really very French at all. As we said several times during the course of our MINI-BREAK, you'd really think you were in BELGIUM most of the time. It's in FLANDERS so I supposed that's fair enough, but has technically been FRENCH for a long old time, so it was quite surprising to find it so BELGIQUE. Anyway, we had a GRATE morning stomping round, being TOLD things, learning about the history of the area and looking at BUILDINGS. I thought guidebooks saying that the Cathedral "looks nicer from the inside" was a JOKE, but it really DID! When it was done we went back to the Musee De Comtesse, as we'd RACED through it on the tour, then went back to EXKI for more GRUB. It was nice!
In the afternoon we went for a walk around the Citadelle, which is a GIGANTIC star-shaped fortress hiding being a playground and zoo in a small forest. It's an Odd Thing made all the more ODD by the fact that it houses something called "The Rapid Reaction Corps", which claims to be some sort of elite force linked to NATO. It sounds, and indeed LOOKS, ENTIRELY like something made up (badly) for a super cheap half-arsed children's TV series, ESPECIALLY when you see its logo which is sort of a fist holding LIGHTNING in front of a star-shaped shield which is also in front of a SWORD. If THUNDERBIRDS had been based next door I would have believed it!
After all that stomping around it was all we could do that evening to go back for BEER and CHIPS, but we managed it because - HEY! - it is IMPORTANT to sample the local culture.
And then it was Sunday and time to go home, which happened at EXTREME SPEED - we later worked out that it was approx 2 hours and 20 minutes from our hotel room to our HOUSE! It really is INCREDIBLY quick, also PEASY, although with the Exchange Rate being HISTORICALLY CRAP it wasn't particularly cheap. Definitely worth it though - if you're after a MINI-BREAK and can get to St Pancras fairly easily I would HIGHLY recommend having a go at LILLE!